University Nebrija and ArcelorMittal have succeeded in 3D printing a steel frame that is very light but also has the necessary rigidity.
Steel or aluminum? – Advantages and disadvantages
Typically, motorcycle manufacturers use steel or aluminum to make motorcycle frames. Steel frames are heavier but less expensive than aluminum frames, which in turn are more expensive but lighter.
Madrid-based Nebrija University teamed up with steel company ArcelorMittal to develop a potential solution, a very lightweight steel frame made by a 3D printer.
“We had more or less achieved the new shape with our algorithms,” admitted Nebrija University Mechanical Engineer Sergio Corbera. “The possibility of generating hollow parts was the main unknown in metal 3D printing. We are talking about wall thicknesses of between 0.8 and 1 millimeter in the chassis.”
Hollow tubes, thin walls
This thin wall thickness, which would not be possible with aluminum in this way, was ultimately the key to the frame. As a result, an extremely lightweight construction was achieved that still had the necessary rigidity. Using the data from the 3D-printed tubes, they created an algorithm that then automatically created the geometric shape for the frame.
“The simulations seem to indicate that we have achieved a very balanced chassis that allows a very good behavior of the bike on the circuit,” revealed Corbera. “We have applied a new manufacturing technology (3D printing) for this sector with a material that could look like prior relegated to that industry and with geometric shapes that break with the usual”
No new steel alloy was developed for 3D printing either, they used a standard steel powder. This should make it very easy for motorcycle manufacturers to use this process themselves, without having to develop a special metal mix first.
“Our steel frame weighs around 3.8 kilos,” noted ArcelorMittal R&D Engineer Paula Rodriguez. “A high-grade aluminum frame from the major motorcycle manufacturers doesn’t drop below 5 kilos, while the other steel frames are around 6/7 kilos. It seems like a small difference, but on a piece like this it’s a huge saving.”
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